PLANS to ban letting agents in Wales from charging fees have taken a step forward.

Agents in the private sector are currently able to charge fees for carrying out credit or reference checks, holding viewings and renewing tenancy agreements - with charges sometimes costing more than £1,000.

But the new bill, which went before the Assembly earlier this week, will ban agents from charging for anything apart from rent, security deposits, and fees relating to holding the deposit or charges when tenants default on payments. Deposits will also be limited to the equivalent of one month's rent.

Landlords breaking the law can be fined up to £1,000 and may lose their licence.

Housing minister Rebecca Evans said the bill would "ensure that tenants will be able to search for a home in the private rented sector with the confidence that they will not be hit by upfront fees".

"This should make the sector more stable, more reliable and more attractive, and reduce barriers for those wishing to enter the sector or move around within it," she said.

Newport East AM John Griffiths also spoke during the debate in his capacity as chairman of the Assembly's Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee.

He said: "It was suggested to us that an unintended consequence could be an increase in rents.

"Whilst we are not in a position to comment on whether this is likely to happen, we note from the evidence that the majority of tenants would prefer a small increase in rent, rather than having to pay upfront fees."

The bill has cross-party support in the Assembly, with Conservative AM David Melding saying: "It is unfair that tenants across the country should be stung by unexpected and unreasonable costs."

But ex-Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood warned it should not prove "toothless".

The bill was voted through to the next legislative stage.

Letting agents fees were banned in Scotland in 2012, and last year the UK Government announced a similar ban would come in place in England.